Fast, good, or cheap - or why you can't build a smartphone | webOS Nation
 
 

Fast, good, or cheap - or why you can't build a smartphone 72

by Derek Kessler Wed, 21 Mar 2012 7:36 pm EDT

Fast, good, or cheap - or why you can't build a smartphone

Every other week or so a new thread pops up in the webOS Nation Forums about the possibility of building our own webOS smartphones or tablets. It always seems to garner a bit of attention, especially when the poster comes in with a set of state-of-the-art (or beyond) specs for their phone that they may as well have lifted out of the latest and greatest Android handset. While this kind of thinking can be fun, I'm here today to dump a bucket of cold water all over it.

Today's smartphones are incredibly complex devices. They're designed by teams that include dozens of electrical and computer engineers and have to be durable, stable, fast, thin, receptive, attractive, unique, and affordable. They're financed by huge companies with far reaching supplier, contractor, and partner relationships. They're created with the support of carriers and the interest of customers. While conceptually a smartphone is a computer, building a smartphone is nothing like building a desktop computer.

Go down to your local computer parts store and tell me how many cell phone processors, radios, and motherboards you see on the shelves. That's right, none. And these are products that are produced by the tens of millions. Consider for a moment the parts that make up a smartphone, say… an HP Pre3. There's a processor and graphics chip, RAM, storage chip, accelerometer, compass, two cameras, radio chip (incorporating GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular), USB controller chip, Micro-USB port, LCD panel, capacitive touchscreen, battery, slider, keyboard, case, Touchstone coil, three switches (power, volume, and ringer), two speakers, two microphones, LED flash, multiple antennae, mirror, front glass, SIM slot, no fewer than screws, and numerous other components, plus AC adapters for the US, Europe, and Asia, USB cable, manuals, and packaging  - all sourced from dozens of different suppliers, the vast majority of whom are located in China. Chances are, you are not located in China.

Apple's latest Supplier Responsibility Report indicated that the company employs the services at least 218 different suppliers - and this is a company that has standardized design and manufacturing processes across their entire product line - the same techniques are used in producing everything from the iPhone and iPad to the MacBook Pro and iMac. While building one smartphone may only take a quarter of that number, that's still a lot of suppliers to fabricate one device, and those kind of relationships can't just be conjured out of thin air.

And let's not forget the cost of each of these components. When crews like iSuppli tear apart a device and give a cost estimate, they do so based on the bulk cost that the manufacturer and its suppliers pay. They get that bulk cost by ordering millions of the same chips and screws and screens - and by paying upfront for them. These suppliers all have a limited capacity, and any small-time manufacturer is going to be competing with Apple and Samsung and Nokia for parts. When you're ordering 50,000 processors from Qualcomm vs. Nokia's three million, who do you think Qualcomm is going to pay attention to?

Let's say by some miracle you've conjured together the parts you need to start building smartphones (and for purposes of this exercise, let's say you have an assembly factory too). Do you have design plans for that smartphone? Oh, yeah, you need people to do that too. No one person can be an inside-and-out smartphone designer, at least not in anything resembling an efficient and speedy manner. Like I said at the outset, smartphones are immensely complicated devices, and they're getting more and more compact, at least as far as the processing bits are concerned, all in the name of slimness and more space for the battery to power the whole kit. Who is going to make this work? A team of radio, electrical, and computer engineers, plus a crew of hardware designers and managers to help make the should-we-do-it-this-way-or-that-way? decisions and make sure it all works together. These people don't come cheap and they're in high demand from the Apples, Samsungs, and HTCs of the world.

Oh, you have your team and a space for them to work, build, and test this smartphone? Awesome. Alright, where's the money? Yeah, the money. This isn't going to be cheap. Need evidence? Look no further than Palm to see what it takes. Palm came into 2009 with the Palm Pre and hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital backing. With all that money and one thousand employees at their disposal, Palm still struggled to put out a quality smartphone. Yes, I loved my Palm Pre, but I'd be the first to tell you that it was not a well-made device. It was thick when smartphones were getting thinner and thinner. It was wobbly and creaking when smartphones were going solid. It was cheap and plasticky when smartphones were going all metal and glass. It was the culmination of years of work by a thousand people and millions of dollars of development and testing and hundreds of millions sent overseas to build the darn things.

Yet despite selling a good number of the Pre phones manufactured, Palm still struggled to turn a profit. Samsung and HTC and Nokia all have to work hard to turn a profit. The only smartphone company that seems to exhale and have profit condense out of the air is Apple, and that's because they have the strength to demand tighter margins from their suppliers and build only a handful of products but in massive quantities (whereas everybody else seems intent on diversifying into a dozen different overlapping models).

You have a hundred million dollars burning a hole in your pocket? Oh, that's great. You aren't getting it from Kickstarter, are you? Alright, let's talk minutiae now. There's certification that needs to be done for every country where you hope to sell your device. There's quality testing that needs to be done to ensure your smartphone can live up to the rigors of everyday life for at least two years. There's carrier testing, and, oh yeah, the carriers… good luck with them. Your best bet is going to be to build a GSM smartphone, because there's absolutely no way you, a small company with no prior smartphone building expertise, are going to be able to convince Sprint or Verizon to even give you a call back, let alone invest the money they'll need to do proper testing on their network.

There are a few locales on our globe (like Germany) where consumers are conditioned to buying smartphones at full price and not dealing with a subsidization built into their service contract. But most of the rest of the world is in a committed relationship with the $200-or-less smartphone, even if it really cost twice that to make (leveraging the above-discussed economies of scale), plus the modest profit you'd really like to take home at the end of the day.

As our friend Rene Ritchie, Editor-in-Chief of iMore put it, "the second new iPad cost $300 [to make]. The first one cost $2 billion." There's more to the story than just plunking down a few hundred dollars to cover the bill of materials. There's the design, the testing, the manufacturing procedures, the contracts, and a dozen other bullet points to be crossed off before the first devices can even begin rolling off the assembly line.

There's a reason companies like Samsung, Apple, Nokia, and HTC dominate the smartphone landscape - it's because they came into the game with a lot of money and experience already at their backs. Apple started off making computers in 1976, their first smartphone didn't come until 2007. Samsung was founded as a trading company in 1938, entering electronics in the late 1960s. Nokia got their start in 1865, making paper of all things. HTC's been around since 1997, existing first as a manufacturer for other companies. Palm was founded in in 1992 and didn't make the Treo (well, Handspring did that) for another decade.

There's an old saying in many industries that has to do with the constraints of reality and the demands of customers: you can have it cheap, fast, or good - pick two.

72 Comments

Well written (and I agree).

I openly disagree.

I believe we are in control of the devices we want to use and there is still plenty of innovation left to be discovered. The iPhone, Android Phones, and WP7 devices are not a "be all" experience and diluting one's self to believe otherwise is irresponsible.

He might as well right an article that says, Don't make an app when there are already companies developing other apps?

Good article! I wish HP wouldn't have stopped making webOS smartphones.

So...you need more than a bedroom with lockable doors? Interesting.

....I resent that comment. My bedroom doesn't
have doors ;)

Peterdev :)

To be fair, his articles aren't all pie in the sky and he's shot pretty straight in many articles over the years (and taken a lot of flack for it). The problem is now that there is no real webOS news, there isn't much to space out the wishing articles.

To be even more fairer, that's just my Sprint line. I still have and use as a co-primary phone my Pre3 on AT&T. The switch to the iPhone on Sprint was partly driven by frustration with the slowing performance and faltering hardware of my hacked-together Pre 2.

Some people are using Pre 2's because it rocks AND because they can't afford another device. That doesn't mean they'd buy another device if they could, it just means 1. they like their money and 2. they still love webos.

damn skippy moving to the sprint galaxy nexus when it ever comes out... Come on April 15 or June sometime(rumored dates)

He told you :P lmao

Yes. I find the vast majority of of Derek's articles and comments during podcasts well reasoned and grounded in logic. That said people will hear what they want to hear some times. If they want to hear bad they'll only hear bad. If they want to just hear it will all be good that's all they'll hear. If they want to hear both sides of an argument they'll listen for both.

Thank-you for doing this - it was overdue - and it's spot on.  Bravo

Sorry, It is probably not easy, but it is perfectly possible, here is the proof.

A 19th year old guy that is about to start selling his 3rd phone

http://www.geeksphone.com/en/

You don't have directly access to those components but there are plenty of companies willing to do the work for you, of course they can't give you the latest and greatest but....

PS: An article in the Spanish press http://tecnologia.elpais.com/tecnologia/2012/02/24/actualidad/1330080318...

until we run out of pre's :(

Derek, have you read this and were you aware of this? They have 15 employees I think according to the spanish language article, I am shocked - shocked - after reading about it. Is it real or just a joke? I have no idea. If real, it actually does make me question your article a bit. Does it make you? I first read the cwilliams or whatever thread last night, and my reaction was that I just wasted a good 20 minutes of my life, but maybe it was worth it for humor purposes. But I did have some questions about the difficulty of just having a manufacture copy a reference design, such as the new intel phonel reference design. Intel has already done all the design work and they made the reference design for someone to copy if they want or tweak.
jessica points out that this is based on a 2009 design (I didn't check the processor). I get that and it is a valid point. But it costs165 euro. An unlocked base iphone 4s cost 600 euro and up. That leaves a ton of room for better specs.
obviously, building a phone is not like building a computer (though I could imagine a world where one day it could be). But seeing reading about the geeksphone makes me uncertain to totally write off a similar effort with open webos. I can't believe I am writing that. Derek, would love your further thoughts, if any.

Do you have any support for this contention? Maybe you are right - that Coby and Viewsonic can't get anything but outdated trash components. I used to have a very expensive, professional level Viewsonic monitor years ago, so at least in the past, before they moved "down market", they used to sell high level products. I see that Viewsonic sells, today, a tablet based upon Intel's Atom processor family. I would imagine that Intel would sell anyone its latest and greatest phone processor - if they have any to sell. They are looking for anyone to use their chips to break into the market, and they will be very competitive speedwise if open WebOS could run on it. Supply of the cutting edge processor goes to the biggest customers first in CPUs and GPUs I'm sure. For example, Apple, Dell, and HP will get the first batch of Ivy Bridge processors from Intel, and Apple is getting first dibs on Nvidia's latest and greatest GPU as soon as they can get it out of the fabs.
But if Qualcomm, TI, Samsung, etc., has adequate supply of a particular chipset and a display, will they not sell it to anyone? Maybe not. Maybe it has to be six months old, maybe a year old? I don't know for sure. ARM processors are growing in processing power by leaps and bounds right now, so each year a new processor handily outperforms the year before. I agree that it would be very good if open WebOS launched with Qualcomm's Krait processor in the fall. But, if a company launched a phone in October on the over-a-year old chipset in the current Touchpad, its last generation ARM 1.5 dual core, would I be happy? Yes. I think that would be more than adequate for many people if open WebOS has the speed improvements that HP has suggested.
I can easily see a world where phone parts become like computer parts - essentially commodities. Startup computer companies have been assembling gaming rigs for years on shoestring budgets, and those computers were always the fastest around. This became possible because component suppliers started selling all of their parts to third parties.
Obviously, this isn't the perfect solution. It would be much better if Samsung or HTC or LG or even Kyocera decided to invest in a line of high end WebOS smartphones. But if someone wants to make the next "Geeksphone" (if it really exists, I've never seen one) that runs open WebOS - it certainly seems possible.
Intel is selling its reference Medfield FFRD to companies and trying to get anyone to buy it. Maybe one day they will sell it unlocked directly to consumers. If I was trying to do a GSM startup phone for open webos, I might try to buy the intel FFRD and put open webos on it, and sell it, unlocked. Here is what Anand Lal Shimpi said about it: It's a complete phone that is "apparently good enough to be sold directly to end users." "Intel's customers are free to take the FFRD and tweak it in whatever way they see fit, or come up with an entirely new design of their own based on Intel silicon. Intel's belief is that by delivering a reference platform that can actually be used and sold, it allows its customers to focus more on software/differentiation, rather than building a reliable, well tested smartphone motherboard."

I agree. When 15 folks did that it is quite possible for others to do it.
The Joojo tablet, the Notion Ink tablet are smaller outfits with less than 30 employees.

I guess what Derek meant was making a brand new phone from the ground up for the consumers. The options many here talked on forums is to make a device reference device not a consumer device for selling. Intel did the reference phone. Qualcom did a tablet. It does not take much to do a reference one. If HP does not want to make a reference device then the next best option is to pick an Android phone and wait for all the moving parts to work (drivers support specifically) and port the webOS. I am sure many will try the second option once we have a truly open webOS.

Glut of webOS devices ?
Show me a 4 inch slab with faster processor and larger RAM.

Continuing the dialog, I don't think the Touchpad would be a failure for many companies, though it certainly was for HP (though that decision obviously was much broader than the Touchpad since they were getting out of PC's entirely).. Before the firesale, at full price, several companies that count channel sales said that it had already moved into second position among tablets behind the Ipad. Way, way behind the ipad, behind what HP hoped, but ahead of any single Acer, Asus, Samsung, or Motorola tablet. Which admittedly is an indictment of Android tablets sales more than praise of Touchpad sales. Yet manufacturers continue to make Android tablets hoping for sales. But if Asus could make a tablet that would outsell any one Android tablet, they might look into a webos tablet when the cost of the operating system is the same as Android (actually less with no patent fees to MS).

We call her "Eden".

I'm 26 with a team of almost 20 strong. Hopefully we can make dent.

Good luck. Please keep us posted.

Right now there is a group from WebOSnation working on such devices. We are in the VERY beginning stages at the moment but we have very high hopes.

There is a long term plan being built as well as financing options..

You are quick to judge the random person that comes in and tells you how they are going to do it.. But everything is possible w/ a well thought out business plan & money. and that is what we plan on doing.

Appreciate that someone is trying to do something rather than talk about that something is really "something" or building a local bowling alley. I cannot do any such thing, so I am happy that someone is trying to do something, the key is "trying" to do something not comparing them with Apple or OEM.

As for Palm, would you please stop comparing. You have no idea why they failed, because from your past comments I gather that you never owned a Sprint Palm Pre. If Palm chose to release a slab in 2009 , the results would have been different. That form factor IMO, is a big big big mistake. That is where the likes of Steve Js think differently.

FWIW no vertical slider phone gained momentum. The Pre, Torch and Dell Venue Pro.

Interesting that you brought up getting annoyed by random person on a message board. So you think Ruby, Mike Bell, Matias, .... all the "A players" never got grilled by anyone on the form factor, never questioned by the board ? Are they all drinking the same kool-aid ? Lets leave it.

Yes, the folks who are trying to do anything with webOS are like 4 year old kids trying to build a lego house. who else they will be ? HTC CEO? Bill Gates ? Tim Cook ? r u kidding ? Again you are not on the same frequency with the rest on this board. Your points are valid but old.

The ecosystem is dead except the work being done quietly by the remaining folks. Any additional news is a welcome. I guess you like to hear news that all the remaining employees are let go and webOS is put to rest for good.

Know what, You are 100% correct.
I am interacting with kids too. There are few here who keeps saying "But you did promised me ..... "And You forgot .." . Funny that I became a kid too. I have to tell the kids around me "Sweetie we know that already, tell me something new "

I like webosnation, its bringing the kid out of men and women. And I hope some kid will take enough risks.

BTW, Except the screen size there is nothing much the same between Apple's iPad and Touchpad. Its like comparing Mercedes with Kia, because they have same interior size and four wheels. Stop comparing them. My Touchpad, the one I paid $ 599 originally broke near the speakers in two weeks. That would have never happened to Apple products. What copying you are talking about ? A company which makes Envys knows better. If anything its a halfhearted effort by HP.

They did what they had to in order to meet the $499 price threshold. An "Envy"-Touchpad would probably be more expensive than an iPad the same way their new Envy Spectre is more expensive than the 13-inch MacBook Air it so desperately tries to copy.

The only reason Samsung is matching them on design and price is because they own the major parts of their supply chain. HP doesn't make the screen, silicon, and many of the individual parts.

People have said this before, but I'm tired of people saying, "Look, the Touchpad failed, that means nobody was ever interested in webOS." There's a fundamental flaw in that argument.
 
The Touchpad isn't a phone.
 
No, seriously. The Pre had a lot of momentum because the OS was sexy, but then gained a lot of criticism because the hardware was crap. The Pre 2 was sexy and had a *lot* better hardware, when it was released--but was released with little or no advertising, and only to Verizon, where they had just released the iPhone for the first time on CDMA, and a GSM unlocked phone which never do well in North America. The Veer and Pre 3 were announced at the same time, so all the webOS faithful  (who are tech geeks) said, "I'll wait for the Pre 3 instead of buying a veer". And then the Pre 3 was never released.
 
Your tablet is fundamentally an unimportant device. If I said I was going to take away every desktop and laptop you have and give you just a tablet--any tablet, of your choosing--would you do it? Probably not, because many people need their laptops and desktops for work. If I said, I'm going to take away every phone you have and give you a tablet, would you do it? Definitely not, because while a tablet is nice to have, a phone of any sort is just essential, because a tablet can't take phone calls, and you wouldn't want it to anyway (sorry, Galaxy Note).
 
 If they had released the Pre 3, it would have sold. Almost all of its reviews were positive, on both software *and* hardware. The Veer would have sold too, if they had priced it like a feature phone so they were targeting the audience it was built for.
 
Oh and that's the other thing that caused the Touchpad to flop. It was a fantastic device, but it ultimately it looked like an iPad, except not. Which isn't a good place to be. The only tablets anyone had had experience with at that time were the iPad, which defines the category, and a slew of those godawful gingerbread tablets. By comparison to those, the touchpad was a work of *art*, but it wasn't priced like those. It was priced like the iPad. And while I would argue that it *is* worth as much as the iPad 2 (I actually paid MSRP for mine), it never stood a chance against that kind of culture machine. They expected their very first tablet to do better than Apple's 2nd, within a *month* of release. That is insanity.
 
They also missed the boat by only releasing the Touchpad, and not the Touchpad Go. The Go would have stood out in the crowd--not looking like a wannabe iPad, and having an infinitely sexier UI than all the gingerbread tablets out there, it would be compared correctly to the Honeycomb tablets like the Xoom, and RIM's Playbook--and in those comparisons, it would definitely come up favorably.
 
Point is, just because the touchpad failed doesn't mean a phone would have.

yes, we are tech geeks. Believe it
or not, my pre- is my main computer
(ssh to servers, emacs, etc). What
I dream of is a rollup amoled slave
_screen_, not a tablet.

hello from the niche !

I hope you have a lot of money. Like, lots and lots of money.

Like, a backer somewhere on this list:

http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/#p_13_s_a0_All%20industries_All%...

There's only 1153 of them, good luck convincing em (only half-sarcastic. I really would love to see them succeed, but highly doubt it...

He/she doesn't. Although I heard they made a prototype, and even have a spokesperson!! http://tinyurl.com/3hzhcs3

:-)

.secrets
..secrets
...secrets
....secrets

Peterdev

What is the point anyway?? HP needs to sell smartphones, it is possible, printers and desktop computer will decrease demand, future are Smartphones, Tablets and Ultrabooks, actually printers will disappear sooner or later.

I wonder why nobody here understand how marketing works, Apple and Jobs manage very well publicity and sales, that's the secret, real experts think Android and Microsoft defeat Apple in a couple of years, the most important OS currently is Android no doubt about that.

Apple Gadgets are very expensive and people will be bored of buying the same things, for instance my friends with old models of iPhones are not convinced to acquired a new model because of high cost and lack of new things.

Everything is possible in business Derek might be tried to convince Henry Ford about how expensive was produce a car, maybe somebody did with no result.

Good one! ...I feel you Derek... but good one presir. That's the spirit!!!

In 1899, Henry Ford founded the Detroit Auto Company.

In 1901, Henry Ford founded Cadillac.

In 1903, Henry Ford founded for Ford Motor Company.

In 1909, the Ford Motor Company began production of the Model T.

Cheap and good, but not fast.

Sound post. One other key point is Henry Ford's Model T was considered the first affordable motor car accessible to the laymen. Anyone now entering the smartphone game is not going to be the first affordable smartphone. In fact most smartphone are not exactly budget items. The relative places in the market are different.

Realistic article; although some persons have a hunger for -not only realistic but- negative news of about webOS. So when Derek displays a little of imagination and dreams (which is normally lacking in most of other platforms), then he's just bubbling nonsense out of a dead platform; but when he gives a real panorama of how somethings aren't as easy (which nobody says it is, well at least I haven't read those threads) and it doesn't seems to be as positive as other -equally difficult- scenarios, then suddenly he is a great_objective_realistic_not_webOS_or_die person/professional (depending on how personal you take this). But no sweatheart! No! He is a webOS_lover_positive_dreamer_never_giving_in_always_there_webOS_hardcore_webOS_or_die kind of people. So go somewhere else (although can't blame you since iOS is so lame and android...well...is so an-droid!) with your condecending_non_important_who_gives_a_crap_not_even_close_to_smart comments and/or compliments. LONG WILL LIVE WEBOS!!!

That is a very confusing post. You sound angry. And how come you use all the underlines?

chris3illiams isn't going to like this...

I don't like this at all. The jest of this article, Yes we all can acknowledge their are big companies making terrible products, and you can't do the same because these companies have already had products before you.

This is the most exciting period in the mobile web. As far as I'm concerned the real mobile war hasn't even began yet. We as a community haven't decided what devices best suite us yet, whether it be cheap, fast or functional.

I'll let you in on a secret though. Android Devs disagree with Samsung/HTC/LG etc. And Microsoft bought Nokia out. Microsoft makes a penny or two from mostly all Android phones, because Windows Mobile is so bad. Nothing has been decided.

Long Live WebOS
I feel great using my Pre and TP more than anything.

I'm curious how HP used the economies of scale for without taking a huge bath on the Veer. I'm sure they sold well under a 100k, probably well under 50k, and based on ebay prices they didn't manufacture many more than they sold (unlike the Pixi), and i'm sure any research on their part must have shown that there was no viable market for the phone. The Pre 2 was not marketed at all and wasn't a mass market phone but I'm guessing even that ended up selling better than the poor little Veer, and Verizon is still selling it.

Maybe Leo and the board had already given up on phones and just made a small batch of Veers and Pre 3s as a token gesture while taking a bath on the manufacturing costs.

Great article Derek! Straight to the point!

But I read later about the geekphone, and I find awsome what they are doing. I think that the specs are not so important, just the fact of stablishing such a technology company in europe and start from zero, it is amazinmg.

Why do not HP give them the plans of the PRE3? I am sure they could do a PRE4, with whatever improvements we want/need and come with a good price of 250€/300€. I mean, WebOS need hardware, this company needs customers, we need phnes. So, it is the perfect Marriage.

Just in one second: What might HP win, if they "give" the hardware plans to this company (or any other)? They still have the revenues from the App Catalog, and thats what its all about, make money from it, when others make money with the hardware.

But it is good to keep feet on the ground. I liked your post, was really straight.

Dear Mr. Kessler,

There are secrets you keep, and there are secrets kept from you. Go for it Team Zukny!

Peterdev :)

they would call him mean names for writing this the forums.

That NYT article (1/21/12 Duhigg and Bradshirr) put forth that the rapid iterations of the iPhone were possible only in China because of the rapid and cheaper availability of skilled engineers, not just lower labor costs. With that much know-how, existing technology (already R&D'd by superpowers like Apple and Nokia) must be like Legos to companies there. You don't have to pay to research how to cut Gorilla-glass, Apple's done that for you.

While I agree that you can't just solder a few parts together and set up a lemonade stand-like business, your 3 criteria for success contradict each other:

- You have to be big.
- You have to be rich (as in 100s of millions, not thousands).

As we've seen with HP, that's not always mutually compatible - it's obvious that every single dollar invested did not serve to directly advance the platform? HP's scale contributed heavily to the stillborn deaths of not a few webOS devices, among them apparently a slate phone.

Your weakest argument is the strongest against your premise:
- You have to be in China (Korea?)

Geography and distance hasn't mattered in a long time. If there's a phone in your bedroom and you know how to network (and I'm not talking about configuring routers), China is exactly the place to call to make your idea come true with limited resources. Subcontracting production overseas has been a no-brainer for decades. R&D and innovation (on the hardware side at least) has been already paid for.

Now, where you DO need hundreds of millions is fighting patent trolls. If HP is good anything these days, it would be this: webOS' built-in patent infringement protect isn't worth much unless you have the bucks to enforce and/or defend your baby.

Totally agree.
HP needs to show a reference device. But I guess that's asking too much at this point. I would be happy to see webOS ported to on android 4.3 inch slab. That would open up a window to really test the operating system on a slab phone.

I have three things to say to this rather negative article:

1) have a look at openmoko
2) if the involved crowd is large enough, everything should be possible.
2) why do we need a dedicated phone? Why not take an already existing flagship phone (e.g. Xperia arc S) to port webOS as a "proof of concept" and "tech teaser"?

Just my 0,50€.

td;lr: In the post-PC era, enterpreneurism is dead, corporatations rule all. Unless you're located in China.

Note to Derek: "Fast" in webOS has never been an option.

I am not convinced that what he speaks of is impossible (Creating hardware and webOS pairs), I believe it can happen, albeit a difficult uphill battle, but I am a half full kind of guy.

But I think we have a greater chance of taking a great piece of hardware, something like a Note/Journal (my favorite phone to dream leaving webOS TEMPORARILY for :) ) and dual booting it with ICS on one side, webOS on the other.

I am not a techie, don't even know if this is possible, but what I do know is that creative people should first dream and imagine, then find a way to make it happen, and NOT give up before they get started.

Just saying ...

I don't think we differ greatly in our positions, but the success of the endeavor depends on the goal.

I agree that any success measured with such a dream would likely be within a niche so small that most would never know it existed. Of course, it could take off and grow legs outside the niche, but I agree that is very unlikely. I mean, take webOS-Internals and the whole homebrew community. For many, their efforts were the means by which webOS became great. Yet, who even knows we exist? Most webOS device owners never did, and surely today, even fewer will ever have the chance to learn about "us".

My greatest hope still is that with webOS-Internals getting ICS devices (I read that somewhere), that some day a new homebrew segment will grow to port or dual boot webOS on other worthy phone hardware.

I guess you don't get it. Palm never made a slab phone.

Nobody wanted a vertical slider. Period.
Call Michael Dell or that new RIMM guy about sales of vertical sliders. They would tell you how well they are sold.. Last I knew they were on sale everywhere from ebay to amazon.

Palm Pre was decommissioned on Sprint/Verizon/ATT while Pixi was supported for long. That tells me that Palm made a blunder in choosing the Pre form factor. Its a mistake they could not afford for a small company with no cash reserves.

What don't I get?

I agree completely, though vertical slider is by FAR my favorite, no one else liked them. Before one of my daughters got an iphone when her Pre- finally gave in, I had installed the vertual keyboard, she hated the physical one.

I get everything you said.

Confused.

it was not for you it was for jessicatapley.
I like the vertical slider, but I am in the minority like < 0.05 %

my favorite too.
hello from the niche !

One mistake that Rubinstein repeated with the pre was using the same crack prone material from the treo pro. He obviously had no experience in the design or manufacture of a quality sliding device. Palm had already made the great Tungsten slider device( I have one that still works flawlessly) so could have easily designed and manufactured a much better device than the Pre. I'm using a Pre 3 now which is a much better designed device, still not flashy enough for a flagship device but at least the hardware is up to Palm levels.

Hell, we can't even make a pencil from scratch, much less a smartphone.

I like your comment. Agree we can't make a pencil from scratch, but china can make smartphone. Its like cottage industry out there.

Ah Hell! Why even both to dream or even try to do anything... It's all impossible or damn close nowadays... Right?

I have a lot of respect for Derek, and he is right... to a point. But when people stop dreaming big & trying to make it happen, the human race will lose 2 of the most important things that got us to this point in evolution... Our ability to think ahead & the ability to adapt to & overcome barriers.... And I don't see tat happening.

To "Jess", all due respect, but is the Iphone so superior (see mundane) that you feel the need and "correct" us misguided webOS faithful?
To come here & troll, even if you are pointing out the painfully obvious. Come on! The vast majority here are very, very well aware of the issues, past & present... & quite a few, like myself, have long been using Palm devices. We come here for news & developments in webOS, not to listen to people bashing the technology we have come to both love & hate, not to listen to people who love to hate.

Seriously, I'm all for being objective, but really... If you have nothing but non-webOS interests & experiences to contribute to webOS or this community that supports it, please find a new way to kill time.

Wow , Wow, Wow
Hmm folks join the forum a full three years after webOS was announced to the world and they tell others who has been on the forum long before and they tell to find another forum ?

Would it be possible to get webos running on GeeksPhone ?
 
http://shop.geeksphone.com/index.php

The good news is we don't have to make a smart phone, all we have to do is make webOS run on some other manufacturer's smart phone. A considerably easier task.

namgod, you are right on the money... Android folks bought up those "crappy" Touchpads like candy to port the little robot into them... I have no problem with it going the other way... There is enough meat on the bones for start-ups & our beloved & dedicated webOS Internals to pull some rabbits out of the Hat, with HP's backing.

Daaaaaaam Girrrl, angry much?

Well, we're all lunatics I guess, that's why we are here & still rocking our outdated junkware... (or wishing we were).

Join dates... Palm devices used... it's all good, only read this site until the Pre3 was announced as "coming". Still using my well-worn Sprint Pre-. The paint is chipping off the back, the screen plate is getting very scuffed, but the crack has stabilized, the "H" button sticks... But I'm still happier using it than the Iphone 4S I played with... I may actually make a frankenpre2 out of some extras phones I bought... Or I may go with an HTC device with the hope of porting webOS into it.. What I do know is that when this phone succumbs to the inevitable, I will still be looking for another webOS phone in the future... May be in vain, but I don't care if you think I'm a lunatic.

I was in the same boat. Pulled the plug on Sprint Pre-. Using Pre 3 on Straight Talk. It rocks. It makes me wonder why HP did not release the Pre 3 ahead of Veer ?

Don't forget Derek...

These are the same people who convinced themselves that HP was going to sell TouchPads by the millions to all these imaginary Enterprise users.

They also calculated somehow that in early August the TouchPad was sold-out, and that based on their calculations of the imaginary sell-out, HP sold the 2-3 million....

The forum is a fantasy would that WarCraft could be jealous of.

Yup the world is full of fantasy. The world expected the Touchpad to be sold a million also the did not expect the Touchpad to crack near the speaker.

I agree completely with this article. I would love to see a flagship webOS device, and I'm not a fan of slab phones the size of small movie screens, or of virtual keyboards popping up and covering the screen. However, for webOS to have any staying power, it needs to be adopted and produced by a major manufacturer with lots of resources and a committed marketing team. Hobbyists can build a kit phone for fun, and porting to android devices would help developers remain interested and working, but that's about it.

Kind of off topic, I've had an idea for a phone design that I would love to get patented (don't worry, I know I can't design or build it), but I know very little about the process and don't have a lot of cash to hire a patent lawyer. Anyone have tips on this? If I were granted a patent that a manufacturer was interested in developing and producing, I would, of course, require them to use webOS if they wanted to make the phone!

Again, great article, Derek!

You forgot the screw count...

"...no fewer than screws..."

More or less fast and probably good in the future but definetly not cheap is this project here:
http://projects.goldelico.com/p/gta04-main/

Started as a replacement of the OpenMoko mainboard, it turns into a standalone board:
http://blog.slyon.de/3d-printed-gta04-case/

It has the complexity mentioned, cortex based, powervr SGX 535, 3,75G :), wifi, BT, GPS augmented by lots of additional sensors, USB OTG, a camera. All packed in a small mainboard. The case is a big and tough one - I can hand it to my kids and they wont be able to break it.

Keyboard is still missing, but is being worked on. The project needs funding, and support. It could become the independent smartphone device to drive webos.